Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Democracy Sacrificed

With the election of three Green MLA's last month many hoped that the province of B.C. might experience something of a resurgence in democracy. Greens are known to work with other parties and now hold the balance of power.
Ever the strategists the Liberals have decided to not cooperate and hope for more seats in an election that will be called in the near future while blaming the Greens for not supporting them.
Here are signs of this strategy:
  1.  None of the Liberal MLA's are willing to stand for election as the Speaker of the Legislature, expecting the NDP or Green to provide one, thus creating a very unstable tie vote. This is unusual in the Westminster tradition
  2. Christy Clark is currently campaigning in the vote-rich lower mainland, wooing them with promises of improving their transit (finally!) and more
  3. Their budget will include many of the policies promised by the Greens and NDP such as more funds for social assistance and an end to corporate donations (which would, if put into effect, end their dynasty) -knowing that this budget will fail. This way they can accuse the NDP and Greens of not voting for policies they hold dear
  4. Corporations quickly began to donate large sums of money to the Liberal Party immediately after the election -more than $1 million in the first two weeks
  5. Their candidates appear to be readying to run in the near future. At least one has not closed his campaign bank account even though they cannot use it
  6. They have accused the NDP and Greens of being "power hungry" and "not cooperating"
  7. They are positioning themselves as being the only stable option (while doing all that they can to destabilize the Legislature). They have named their cabinet members and announced this to local media (even though they know that they will be defeated, terminating the cabinet), giving all appearances of being ready to govern
  8. They are hoping to convince the Lieutenant Governor that the NDP/Green alliance is too unstable and thus to call another election rather than to allow the alliance an opportunity to form the government. If they were to provide a Speaker this would not be necessary.
Contrast all of this to the recent occurrence in Great Britain. There the ruling Conservatives wooed a small Party that had won a few seats so that together they would have enough votes to prevent another election. They accomplished this in less than a month and got back to business. In B.C. the Liberal leader, Christy Clark, did not show up to the initial meeting with the Green Party's Andrew Weaver and the Party was not willing to give up some of its favourite positions in order to meet the Green's expectations of support, then blamed Andrew for forging an agreement with the NDP before meeting with Christy Clark. Where was she at that most important initial meeting? Why did they not go to Andrew on bended knee so that the province could enjoy a more stable government?

Projection is an attempt to place on to others what is true of oneself. While accusing the NDP and Greens of being "power hungry" the Liberals delayed the recalling the legislature as long as they could, and rumour has it that they will not present a budget when it first reconvenes. These delays allow the Liberal caucus to keep the Site C dam to continue to the point that it becomes uneconomical to stop it, displacing homeowners in the meantime, and continue their policies as long as possible. Claiming that providing a Speaker from their ranks as this would amount to "propping up" the NDP/Green government they expected the Greens to support them so as to provide stability in the province. Would this not amount to "propping up" the Liberals?

The result of all of the above is that the Legislature will fall as soon as a non-confidence vote succeeds -all this will require is just one Green or NDP MLA to be missing from the Legislature one day. The Liberal coffers are filling with corporate donations. They will be more than ready with their slick campaign that blames the NDP and Greens for messing up the province and offering a stable pro-economy, pro-jobs promise from the Liberals.

Such is the state of democracy in British Columbia. Will the voters reward or punish the Liberals?

Friday, June 2, 2017

To Make Nanaimo Affordable and Better

In light of Nanaimo’s aging population (somewhat higher than Canada’s and even B.C.’s) and that the future looks dim without a greater immigration and retention of younger adults (called “the Millenniums”) who are keen to have a planet worth living on, what does Nanaimo need to do to survive and thrive?
A Master’s thesis written by Lan Le Diem Tran, a Millennial who hails from Vietnam, answers this question. Her thesis focused on leisure mobility in Nanaimo for Millennials (born 1984 to 1996). After surveying them in 2016 she concludes that in order to thrive Nanaimo needs to attract and retain talented workers by greatly improving our sustainable transportation system. Young adults want to live in mid-sized cities such as Nanaimo, especially with the natural beauty and amenities offered here if such cities catch up on sustainable transportation, including far more transit and active options afforded by dedicated cycling and walking infrastructure.
They want an affordable, sustainable, city. They know that transportation is one of the two most expensive costs for individuals and families (it is often as expensive as is housing). In 2010, transportation alone accounted for 13.35% of the total average estimated household expenditures in Nanaimo – higher than the two largest cities in British Columbia, which are Vancouver (12.95%) and Victoria (12.29%). Why? Because 88% of the people living in Nanaimo travel by car for their daily needs, whereas only 8.5% choose to walk, 1.0% cycle, and 2.5% use public transit.
Not good news. But in 2014 the city of Nanaimo conducted a nearly $1 million study about how to move forward. The vision of Nanaimo’s Transportation Master Plan looks compelling:
Nanaimo’s multi-modal transportation system will connect the City’s residents and businesses to each other, the rest of Vancouver Island and beyond. It will provide inclusive transportation choices that are safe, comfortable, and accessible for people of all ages and abilities. A system of interconnected facilities and services will provide affordable mobility while supporting a shift towards a more sustainable mix of transportation alternatives. The transportation network will seek to create and support a vibrant, liveable, healthy and sustainable community for residents, businesses and visitors alike.
Sadly the actual action plan is weak.  It aims to reduce the trip proportions made by private vehicles by only 8% within 27 years (2014-2041), leaving Nanaimo far behind in the global and regional competition for Millennial talents, keeping it as one of the most expensive cities in the province, contributing to its very high poverty rate.
Being a car-dependent city brings many draw-backs, and not only for Millennials.
What does our current transportation system truly cost? A lot!
The dependence on the automobile leads to:
  •  High incidents of injuries and death. In Canada people aged between 15 and 34 account for the most fatalities and injuries.
  •  Current urban designs lead to car dependencies and lead to a lack of sufficient physical exercise through walking and cycling which significantly contributes to health issues such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, and cardiovascular diseases.
  •  Other health issues arise from noise pollution from traffic and air pollution (that kills several thousand Canadians every year).
  •  Transportation challenges restrict access to numerous services and facilities, namely jobs, education, leisure facilities, and health-care services, all of which are critical social determinants of health.
  •  A lack of adequate transportation is also correlated with higher crime rates and thus a reduced sense of security and life satisfaction.
  •  A lack of transportation options also reduce the economic performance of a city or region in part because money spent on cars leaves the region, and such prevents many of those in the lower socio-economic spectrum from getting work or gaining better paying employment.

In addition a city’s economy and vitality is constrained by inadequate transportation systems.
  1.  Urban areas that encourage reliance on private motorised vehicles foster expenditures on cars and their related costs, such as gas, insurance, and parking. Money spent on cars and fuels is money that largely leaves the regional economy, draining it.
  2. Without people-friendly transportation systems consumers are less likely to be enticed to purchase local goods, resulting in weak economic resilience of the community.
  3. A lack of transportation options greatly increases foreclosures at times of economic recessions
  4.  Businesses in the community may have difficulty hiring employees and suffer from lost customers
  5. Provincially, poor transportation options results in higher benefit payments and reduced tax contributions

What does it cost society for various ways of getting around? For every $1 spent on walking or cycling society pays less than 10 cents. Locally for every $1 spent on buses society pays $2. But for car travel for every $1 spent, society pays nearly $10! [1]
Relying heavily on the single-occupancy motor vehicle is not only costly for the user/owner and especially for society it also exacts a cost to our well-being, physically and socially. Car travel is often isolating. Healthy humans are well-connected to others. The quality, not only the quantity of travel, needs to be considered.
By changing this we can benefit in many ways. Greatly increasing affordable, accessible and sustainable transportation costs a lot less, improves our local economy, boosts our health outcomes, and brings many others benefits.
The Victoria Transportation Institute (www.vtpi.org) concludes that the most liveable cities are the ones that provide the most public transportation. Lan Le Diem Tran would wholeheartedly agree.